Cambodia has become a place of “intolerance” for the freedoms of assembly and expression, with last year the worst on record for human rights, the rights group Licadho said Monday.
In an annual report released over the weekend, the group points to intimidation of rights workers and journalists, including the September murder of a reporter named Hang Serei Oudom, who had worked to expose illegal logging and forest crimes. The group also pointed to the prohibition of demonstrations and other assembly by the authorities. And rights workers say repression is likely to increase as the country heads toward national elections in July.
Am Sam Ath, monitoring supervisor for Licadho, told VOA Khmer the government must now work on preventing pre-election violence.
“The human rights situation in Cambodia began 2012 teetering on the edge of a precipice, and by the end of the year had fallen off the cliff,” Licadho said in a statement issued along with the report. “The past year was the most violent year ever documented in terms of the authorities using lethal force against activists,” the group said. “The year also saw four deaths related to conflicts over natural resources, a growing atmosphere of fear and intimidation and the mass arrests of activists.”
Cambodian supporters of Mam Sonando, one of Cambodia’s most prominent human rights defenders, protest in front of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, Oct. 1, 2012.
Licadho pointed to the 20-year prison sentence for Beehive Radio owner Mam Sonando, the killing of environmental activist Chut Wutty, the defrocking of an activist monk, and other abuses in 2012.
“A journalist working on logging issues was murdered in Ratanakiri province,” the group said. “A town governor opened fire on protesting garment workers, and charges were dropped before he spent a single day in prison. And 17 leaders from Phnom Penh communities facing eviction spent time in prison.
“The sheer volume of shocking turns makes it difficult to choose where to begin a summary of 2012,” Licadho Director Naly Pilorge said in a statement. “And the stage is set for another tense year in 2013, with National Assembly elections coming in July.”
Government spokesman Phay Siphan said the report does not reflect the “real situation” in Cambodia.